Although experiencing leaks whilst running can be embarrassing, you should know that you are not alone in experiencing the condition. These accidents are often symptoms of Stress Incontinence, which is the most common cause of incontinence.
Stress incontinence is a condition where urine leaks out when your bladder is under pressure, for example, when you run. You may also experience urine leakage when you lift heavy objects, or through activities such as coughing and laughing.
Why do you experience Urinary Incontinence when Running?
Experiencing urine leakage during running often occurs due to a problem with the pelvic floor muscles. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can be caused by the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, hormonal shifts and the force of gravity over time. Having weak pelvic floor muscles results in the individual being unable to prevent and control leakages. While some individuals suffer from a strength deficit, others possess plenty of pelvic power, however, lack the full control or ability to release it. Excessive tension from injury or stress can keep the pelvic floor in a constant clench. Eventually, the muscles become tired and give away, causing lack of support and leakage control. The impact of too much pressure on the muscles can then contribute to stress incontinence. If your muscles have too much tension, you may experience frequent pain during intercourse or have difficulty inserting a tampon.
Often, the occurrence of incontinence when running can be worsened through drinking fluids that irritate the bladder, such as highly caffeinated beverages. Research has shown that citrus fruits, spicy foods, chocolate, milk and carbonated beverages can have similar effects. Drinking far too much water before running combined with extra pressure on the bladder is a recipe for disaster if you have stress incontinence. Health factors such as being overweight and smoking are also known to be risk factors for incontinence during exercise. Various medications are common reasons causes of leaking during exercise and can even be the underlying cause of stress incontinence.
How can you minimise your problems with Incontinence and Running?
The tips below can help you work towards having a worry-free run:
Assess the Health of your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pelvic floor muscles are diagnosed by specially trained Doctors, who can assess your ability to contract and relax these muscles to find the problem. Talking to a physical therapist can help diagnose urinary incontinence and find the underlying cause of your stress incontinence. If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, they can also recommend pelvic floor exercises, which strengthen and train the pelvic floor muscles. It is estimated that six out of ten cases of stress incontinence caused by a weak pelvic floor are improved by strengthening the pelvic floor. Physical therapists can also provide you with education about behaviour change and ways to decrease incontinence frequency. For men, in particular, constant pressure from cycling or hours of sitting sedentary at a desk can worsen a weak pelvic floor. The same types of relaxation strategies that help women with incontinence can also ease men’s urinary urges. If your muscles are too tense, your Doctor will recommend trying deep breathing or other relaxation techniques instead of pelvic floor exercises. A therapist can also help with biofeedback, which uses electronic monitors to help you learn to control and release your pelvic muscles.
Find the right balance of Liquid Intake
Although it may be your instinct to start drinking less water when you have outlined a problem with stress incontinence, over-restiction can backfire. Dehydration concentrates your urine, irritating the sensitive lining of your bladder. Taking energy tablets and sugary sweets can worsen dehydration, as
your bladder feels a strong urge to purge this non-diluted waste product, causing mini-contractions to make you pee. Doctor Garges recommends dividing your body weight in half and adding 10 to 15 percent; that’s your baseline target of ounces per day. Take notes on how the amount and timing of your intake affect your mid-run leaks and stops and adjust from here.
It is useful to adjust the times you normally drink water before your run. For example, if you are drinking water half an hour before your run and this causes accidents, try drinking water closer to the time you start running. You can keep adjusting your routine until you find a sensible way of staying hydrated yet free from leaks. Whilst drinking water, sipping instead of gulping helps your body better absorb fluids. Additionally, it is ideal to drink water at room temperature, as cold beverages shock the system and cause an urge to urinate. It is recommended to stick to water before running, as caffeinated drinks irritate the lining. You may be craving a strong coffee or energy drink as a pre-run boost, however, you should try to resist the urge and increase your chances of staying during your run.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Staying a healthy weight can make an enormous difference, reducing pressure on the bladder. A study in 2009 found that losing weight reduces incontinence in individuals who are overweight or obese. In a trial funded by the National Institutes of Health, moderate weight loss in a group of heavy women who undertook a diet and exercise program cut the frequency of incontinence episodes by nearly a half. After six months, women in one of the groups had lost an average of 17 pounds and had 47% fewer incontinence episodes. Healthcare experts assert that losing just 5% to 10% of your weight can result in a marked improvement in people with bladder leakage issues. Losing weight should be on of your first lines of defence when it comes to a solution for urinary incontinence.
Invest in suitable Incontinence Products
If you are a woman with stress incontinence, it is important not to settle with products that are designed for period leaks. They simply are not manufactured to handle urine, and will not be half as effective as an incontinence product.
The variety of incontinence products available is growing, and you can now purchase products that are specially designed to provide maximum discretion and comfort. Many all-in-one products are designed for people with a more active lifestyle. The style and discrete nature of the pads mean they are a popular choice for runners. A super absorbent core is built into the pad to provide maximum comfort. The Attends Slip Active all-in-ones have a discreet nature and feature positioning tapes and resealable fixation tapes for security during movement.
You can also opt for stretchy incontinence pants that offer freedom of movement. These can be worn alongside a pad inside the pants, which will keep you dry and comfortable for your run. Running does not have to be unpleasant or accompanied by bulky products. Depend Active-Fit pants, for example, are designed to look and feel just like normal underwear. The FIT-FLEX Protection gives you extra comfort while you are running and delivers a smooth, sleek look and feel.
In addition to purchasing the ideal products, you should ensure you always use the restroom prior to running.
Look into Surgical Options
Most treatments for stress incontinence do not involve surgery and are un-invasive, however occasionally these methods do not help. Your choice to have surgery should depend on how far the condition affects your daily life and what you can cope with. In general, it is not recommended to get surgery unless your condition is very severe.
The main operations used to help stress incontinence are burch colposuspension and a tension-free vaginal tape.
Procedures that are used less often are the following:
- Bulking Agents
- Sling Procedures
- Artificial Sphincters
- Anterior Vaginal Repair
It is estimated that 62% of people with stress incontinence wait a year or longer before discussing stress incontinence with a Doctor. Ensure you talk to a Doctor and find the most suitable treatment options for you. Remember that although you may be tempted to give up exercise, running does actually strengthen pelvic floor muscles and can help your incontinence problem long term.